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Ethel Ennis: If Women Ruled the World

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For some folks, chasing the rainbows of “stardom” simply isn’t in the cards. Such is the case with Baltimore’s jazz singing treasure Ethel Ennis. Largely eschewing the limelight, Ennis had a jazz club for a time in the “Charm City,” yet she has never chosen to be a roadrunner for any length of time. This is her first recording date in quite awhile and she takes great advantage of the opportunity, laying down 12 sparkling tracks that are a choice mixture of standards, one original, and several selections from diverse and distinctive women, including Billie Holiday, Joan Armatrading, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, Carole King, and Bonnie Raitt-thus the title. Though one could also make a case for the title in the case of Ethel and a couple of potent horn soloists, most notably trumpeter-flugelhornist Ingrid Jensen and two cameos on soprano sax from Jane Ira Bloom.

There is an obvious woman-centered sensibility to this record, though not in any way exclusionary of that other gender, as she works with such cookers as guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Drew Gress, and drummers Dennis Chambers and Billy Hart, to cite a few from her diverse cast of partners. Above all is the finely wrought, amiable, butterscotch voice of Ethel Ennis. And we sure hope she won’t take so long between records next time.